Tomatoes, the Superfood
Not only can tomatoes boost your all-important fruit and vegetable intake in order to help you live a healthier life with a lower risk of disease, they are virtual plant powerhouses with their own unique profile of nutrients. Tomato products are a good source of vitamins C, A and K; potassium, and fiber – all in a nifty low-calorie, low-fat package. A 100-gram serving of canned tomatoes contains only 32 calories. Nutrition, delicious and economical, it’s no wonder that tomato products are the most popular vegetable, not including potatoes.
When it comes to tomato’s arsenal of nutrients, scientists are particularly fascinated with their carotenoids beta-carotene and lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that gives tomatoes their deep red color and protects against disease. Eating a single serving of tomatoes increases the lycopene level in your bloodstream. When tomatoes are cooked, their lycopene content becomes even more available to your body. Your body also uses lycopene better when tomato products are prepared with fat such as olive oil. But scientists are learning that it isn’t just the lycopene in tomato products offering health benefits, it’s the synergy of a whole rainbow of plant nutrients and compounds all working together in the tomato to protect you from disease.
That’s why eating a regular supply of tomato products has been linked with a reduced rate of chronic diseases. The health protective power of tomato products was recently highlighted for the first time in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The recently revised guidelines include nine key foods/food groups that Americans should encourage. One of these key recommendations is as follows:
“Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas.”
In fact, tomatoes are so special, they frequently show up among the top “superfoods” you should be including in your diet more often. For example, in the New York Times best-selling book SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life, author Steven Pratt, MD puts tomatoes and tomato-based products on his list of 14 important foods that can make a dramatic impact on your health and longevity. On national television, Mehmet C. Oz, MD recommended eating 10 tablespoons of tomato sauce per week to gain the wonderful effects of lycopene. And the Chicago Tribune included canned tomatoes on their list of the top ten “hidden superfoods” lurking in your pantry that you should eat more frequently. So, power up on the “super” benefits of tomato products every day.